Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yahoo Mail Supports Free IMAP … But Only via Mobile

It’s hard to know what to say about Yahoo at this point. They have a lot of page views, but their internal organs seem to have been liquified from the inside by some flesh-eating plague.

Barely alive, they are of course responsible for their own continuing undoing. A great example is the failure to do something useful with the email user base. The purple crew has missed every opportunity to exploit the email product, from Google-style ads to Facebook-style social networking (back when they had a chance). And there’s the infamous CEO with her Napoleonic airs.

But I digress.

See, here’s the thing. On the Internet, unless you’re lucky enough to be a telco, you actually have to compete. Which means when Google gives away IMAP-enabled mail, and Windows Live gives away POP access and 25+ GB of online storage, you need to rethink your strategy of making your mail product harder to use while praying that the nine people on earth who haven’t heard of Google will sign up for your deluxe mail service (now with undercoating!)

But Yahoo has never been able to think one thing at a time. It’s not so much that they excel at multitasking than that they are schizophrenic. So while one group is committing ritual suicide with the email product, another realizes that to reach the mobile market, exposing mail via open protocols might help.

And hence they offer endpoints called something like and Before you get all excited and ask me to check the hostnames and port numbers, though, I’ll drop the punchline: it appears Yahoo filters access to these services based on IP, and opens the service to mobile carrier address blocks (and carrier proxy addresses).

After seeing my phone successfully configure itself for these services, I couldn’t resist trying them from a desktop client. No joy. I guess if I were really hardy I could grab the public-net-facing IP address for my phone (by having it connect to my own server) and pretend to be that IP. But … really … is it worth it? No… with Yahoo still living in 2002, I’m afraid it’s just not.